A year after playing for a Division 2 National Championship, Shepherd University Football is preparing for a season as the team everyone is focused on beating. Shepherd and the rest of the Mountain East are ready for the new year.
Last December, the Shepherd University Rams played for a National Championship at the Division II level. Despite losing 34-7 to Northwest Missouri State University, the Rams are poised for another successful year. Shepherd finished last year’s season with 13 wins and only the 1 loss at the title game. This season, the Rams are picked to win the Mountain East Conference and are ranked 4th in the American Football Coaches Association Poll to start the year.
Monte Carter is Shepherd’s football coach and said last years’ experience will help his team this year.
"We got a little better in some areas and we’re not going to be as good in some others, but you have that every year," Carter said. "Our offensive line should be better, we have a great quarterback, you have the depth with our defense and they’re going to be pretty good too."
Picked second in the Mountain East Conference preseason poll is the University of Charleston. Last year, Charleston finished with 10 wins and 2 losses. It was the first time ever the Golden Eagles made the Division 2 postseason tournament. UC returns eight starters on offense, a unit that averaged over 41 points per game last year. On the other side of the ball, Charleston’s defense gave up 27 points per game last year.
University of Charleston Head Coach Pat Kirkland says the key to his team’s good record last year and possible great season this year comes from leadership and hard work.
"Last year the one thing I was impressed with was they took ownership of the program and pride in what they did and we had a real tough, and similar to this year, first five games, we had Concord, Shepherd, Notre Dame and Glenville and it’s similar this year and puts a big emphasis on what we do in preseason camp, we’ve got to be good and stay healthy and that’s going to be a big part of it," Kirkland said.
The rest of the Mountain East Conference Preseason Poll has Concord 3rd, Glenville State 4th, Fairmont State and Notre Dame tied for 5th, West Liberty 7th, West Virginia State 8th, West Virginia Wesleyan 9th and Urbana and University of Virginia-Wise at 10th.